In this section you'll find extracts taken from Papal Speeches and Encyclicals on the Sacrament of Reconciliation as well as links to more material.
Extracts taken from Papal Encyclicals on the Sacrament of Reconciliation:
“How good it feels to come back to him whenever we are lost! Let me say this once more: God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy. Christ, who told us to forgive one another “seventy times seven” (Mt 18:22) has given us his example: he has forgiven us seventy times seven. Time and time again he bears us on his shoulders. No one can strip us of the dignity bestowed upon us by this boundless and unfailing love. With a tenderness which never disappoints, but is always capable of restoring our joy, he makes it possible for us to lift up our heads and to start anew. Let us not flee from the resurrection of Jesus, let us never give up, come what will. May nothing inspire more than his life, which impels us onwards!”
“An evangelising community knows that the Lord has taken the initiative, he has loved us first (cf. 1 Jn 4:19), and therefore we can move forward, boldly take the initiative, go out to others, seek those who have fallen away, stand at the crossroads and welcome the outcast. Such a community has an endless desire to show mercy, the fruit of its own experience of the power of the Father’s infinite mercy. Let us try a little harder to take the first step and to become involved. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. The Lord gets involved and he involves his own, as he kneels to wash their feet. He tells his disciples: ‘You will be blessed if you do this’ (Jn 13:17).”
“…as far as external works are concerned, mercy is the greatest of all the virtues: ‘In itself mercy is the greatest of the virtues, since all the others revolve around it and, more than this, it makes up for their deficiencies. This is particular to the superior virtue, and as such it is proper to God to have mercy, through which his omnipotence is manifested to the greatest degree’.”
“I want to remind priests that the confessional must not be a torture chamber but rather an encounter with the Lord’s mercy which spurs us on to do our best. A small step, in the midst of great human limitations, can be more pleasing to God than a life which appears outwardly in order but moves through the day without confronting great difficulties. Everyone needs to be touched by the comfort and attraction of God’s saving love, which is mysteriously at work in each person, above and beyond their faults and failings.”
“The Church must be a place of mercy freely given, where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel.”
“The Gospel tells us: “Blessed are the merciful, because they shall obtain mercy” (Mt 5:7). The apostle James teaches that our mercy to others will vindicate us on the day of God’s judgment: “So speak
and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy, yet mercy triumphs over judgment” (Jas 2:12-13).”
“The message that shines out from this Gospel passage is eloquent: God forgives all to those who love much. Those who trust in themselves and in their own merits are, as it were, blinded by their ego and their heart is hardened in sin.
“Those, on the other hand, who recognize that they are weak and sinful entrust themselves to God and obtain from him grace and forgiveness.
“It is precisely this message that must be transmitted: what counts most is to make people understand that in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, whatever the sin committed, if it is humbly recognised and the person involved turns with trust to the priest-confessor, he or she never fails to experience the soothing joy of God’s forgiveness.”
Address to participants in an annual course on matters of conscience, March 7, 2008
“On experiencing the Lord’s tenderness and forgiveness, the penitent more easily acknowledges the gravity of sin and reinforces his decision to avoid it and to remain and grow in his renewed friendship with him.”
February 19, 2007
“In the Sacrament of Penance, the simple confession of one’s guilt is presented with confidence in God’s merciful goodness. It is important to do this without falling into scruples, with the spirit of trust proper to the children of God. In this way confession can become an experience of deliverance, in which the weight of the past is removed from us and we can feel rejuvenated by the merit of the grace of God who each time gives back the youthfulness of the heart.”
On The Eucharist in its Relationship to the Church
“The two sacraments of the Eucharist and Penance are very closely connected. Because the Eucharist makes present the redeeming sacrifice of the Cross, perpetuating it sacramentally, it naturally gives rise to a continuous need for conversion, for a personal response to the appeal made by Saint Paul to the Christians of Corinth: “We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20). If a Christian’s conscience is burdened by serious sin, then the path of penance through the sacrament of Reconciliation becomes necessary for full participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice.”
On Reconciliation and Penance in the Mission of the Church today
“…it is thanks to the medicine of confession that the experience of sin does not degenerate into despair.(181) The Rite of Penance alludes to this healing aspect of the sacrament,(182) to which modern man is perhaps more sensitive, seeing as he does in sin the element of error but even more the element of weakness and human frailty.”
“Whether as a tribunal of mercy or a place of spiritual healing, under both aspects the sacrament requires a knowledge of the sinner’s heart in order to be able to judge and absolve, to cure and heal. Precisely for this reason the sacrament involves on the part of the penitent a sincere and complete confession of sins. This therefore has a raison d’etre not only inspired by ascetical purposes (as an exercise of humility and mortification), but one that is inherent in the very nature of the sacrament.”
“…it must be emphasized that the most precious result of the forgiveness obtained in the sacrament of penance consists in reconciliation with God, which takes place in the inmost heart of the son who was lost and found again, which every penitent is. But it has to be added that this reconciliation with God leads, as it were, to other reconciliations which repair the breaches caused by sin. The forgiven penitent is reconciled with himself in his inmost being, where he regains his own true identity. He is reconciled with his brethren whom he has in some way attacked and wounded. He is reconciled with the church. He is reconciled with all creation.”
“I also wish to pay homage to the innumerable host of holy and almost always anonymous confessors to whom is owed the salvation of so many souls who have been helped by them in conversion, in the struggle against sin and temptation, in spiritual progress and, in a word, in achieving holiness. I do not hesitate to say that even the great canonized saints are generally the fruit of those confessionals.”
On the need for the practice of Interior and Exterior Penance
“Doing penance for one’s sins is a first step towards obtaining forgiveness and winning eternal salvation. That is the clear and explicit teaching of Christ, and no one can fail to see how justified and how right the Catholic Church has always been in constantly insisting on this. She is the spokesman for her divine Redeemer. No individual Christian can grow in perfection, nor can Christianity gain in vigor, except it be on the basis of penance.”
Pope Benedict XVI Address to Confessors Feb 19, 2007
Holy Thursday Letter of the Holy Father Pope John Paul II to Priests regarding the rediscovery of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, March 25, 2001
On certain aspects of the Celebration of the Sacrament of Penance
“The Sins We commit Distance Us from God”, address of Pope Benedict XVI delivered before praying the midday Angelus on Feb 15, 2009 with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
Catechesis on Forgiveness in the sacrament of Reconciliation by Pope John Paul II General Audience Sept 8, 1999
Catechesis on Invitation to Conversion in the sacrament of Reconciliation by Pope John Paul II General Audience Sept 15, 1999.
These quotations and links were collated by the Home Mission Desk, Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis, CBCEW.